• Innovation in Action

Mar 1, 2023

Sentara Community Care Center Directly Impacting Economic and Racial Disparities

Sentara Box

Sentara Healthcare’s partnerships in North Carolina and Virginia, ranging from small faith-based organizations to large universities, have garnered more than $6 million in state funding and helped more than 541,000 people receive food during the pandemic, of which 75,290 of them were vulnerable seniors.

As part of this commitment to be the health anchor in the communities they serve, Sentara Healthcare opened a community care center, aimed at mitigating chronic disease, in a historic health care desert in in Norfolk, Virginia.

“Our organization was intentional about visiting neighborhoods and listening to our partners,” said Sherry Norquist, Director of Community Engagement and Impact at Sentara. “We did not propose solutions that were prescriptive without talking to the individuals or direct service organizations that serve marginalized populations.”

Norquist said the goal of the community care center is to:

  • Build trust and improve relationships with patients who have challenges obtaining care,
  • Evaluate local community health needs and design services to fulfill them,
  • Expand neighborhood health care through mobile clinics, flexible hours and telehealth services, and
  • Develop programs to manage common diseases and expand preventive services.

Michael Charles, MD, FAAFP, with Sentara, said a medical assistant who speaks Spanish recently helped a family who moved to the country receive food, blankets as well as furniture. The mother, who was pregnant, said her family was sleeping on the floor and living on a diet of rice and milk because that is all they could afford. The medical assistant obtained this information through a conversation while drawing her blood and started the process to help the family.

“In one month, our team completed 20 patient outreach touches to locate needed resources from community partners, the local health department, Eastern Virginia Medical School, and others,” said Dr. Charles. “Because of a connection we made with the Norfolk Health Department’s Hispanic outreach team, we successfully found an OB/GYN practice that was able to begin care.”

Other area partners are also spreading the word about services offered through Sentara’s community care center. An older patient who attended a care center clinic after receiving a flyer about it from one of Sentara’s community partners, shared with a medical team member that she could not afford copays for insulin to manage her diabetes.

Care center staff provided her money to temporarily cover the copays and set up a follow-up appointment with a community health worker to figure out how to get her medicine covered. The staff also scheduled her to receive education about managing diabetes.

“We are continuing our journey to be the health anchor in all the communities we serve,” said Norquist. “The foundation of these commitments extends beyond traditional grant-making to include partnering with community-based organizations to tackle underlying economic and racial disparities.”

Sentara Healthcare is a 2022 Health Quality Innovator of Year winner in the Collaboration Category. Click HERE to learn more about their success in reducing their CLABSI rates during the COVID-19 pandemic. Click HERE to watch a video of detailing the success of their community care center in Norfolk, Virginia.